December 18, 2014

Elyria
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Aircraft carrier component provider seeks congressional help to avert cuts

ELYRIA — Ken Caratelli is familiar with the drill.

For the second time in two years, the president and CEO of Elyria’s Nelson Stud Welding will sit down next week with Ohio congressional leaders to make the case against threatened federal defense budget cuts to the Navy’s aircraft carrier construction and maintenance program.

Nelson Stud, which employs more than 200 people at facilities in Elyria, LaGrange and Westlake, produces welding equipment including specialized fasteners that are used on more than 300 Navy vessels ranging from its 11 massive aircraft carriers to submarines and destroyers.

While the amount of proposed cuts to the aircraft program remains to be seen, they could potentially lead to the loss of jobs at Nelson Stud, as was feared a year ago before Congress decided to maintain the program at current funding levels, Caratelli said.

“I haven’t yet evaluated how this particular situation will affect us, but depending on how this shakes out, it could have a short- or long-term effect,” Caratelli said.

“This is sensitive information, and we are a privately held company,” Caratelli said in declining to reveal the much of the company’s business is represented by its contracts with the Navy.

“The fact that I’m spending a week of my time in Washington lets you know how important this is,” Caratelli said.

Nelson Stud, which is a division of Doncasters Group Ltd., is one of more than 180 suppliers nationwide to the aircraft carrier program whose representatives will reportedly urge Congress to maintain funding for what is termed the refueling and complex overhaul of the USS George Washington carrier.

Caratelli said he has meetings set with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Cleveland, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, and Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana.

“We want to impress upon Congressional leaders the importance of this program both from a national security standpoint and from the standpoint of keeping Americans employed,” Caratelli said.

The carrier maintenance-modernization program is a four-year process because it involves the pairs of nuclear reactors that power the Navy’s carriers, Caratelli said. “There is a long lead time involved in getting these ships ready, which have a life of over 50 years.”

Continued uncertainty over funding for the Navy aircraft carrier program “is troubling to the carrier supply chain,” according to a statement from Nelson Stud, as it “provides no clear direction on how companies should … prepare inventory, allocate resources and hire skilled workers.”

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.